The Soldotna and Skyview high school volleyball teams met in the first Northern Lights Conference match of the season Thursday at Soldotna, and the contest proved to be a dandy as the Stars scratched out a five-game win.
"It's a great way to start the season," said Soldotna's Stacey Foster. "... (Skyview) pushed us, but that's what we needed for the first game of the year to see how far we could be pushed and still fight back."
The Panthers took the first game in extra points, 27-25, when a pair of Soldotna players collided while trying to track down a Skyview tip.
"(Losing the first game) got us fired up," Foster said. "We knew we could have had it, and it slipped through our fingers."
Skyview led 24-19 in the second game, but the Stars fought off game point five times no easy task in rally scoring, where one miscue would have given the Panthers a point and the game and Megan Needs served up six straight points to give the Stars a 26-24 win and level the match.
"The second set was key. We should have closed it out when we had the opportunity," said Skyview coach Sheila Kupferschmid. "Putting SoHi down by two (games) would have been big."
Instead, the Stars were able to stay focused and carry their momentum into the third game, which they won 25-18.
The Panthers regrouped for game four, which seesawed back and forth until Skyview put together an eight-point run to take an 18-11 lead.
Soldotna pulled to within three points, 22-19, but a big hit by Anna Bonebrake got Skyview's momentum going again, and a hit from Amber Kunz gave the Panthers a 25-20 win, forcing a fifth game.
Skyview took an early lead in the fifth game, but the Stars turned the tables as Allyssa Roach stepped to the service line. Her first serve tied the game at 10, and she then proceeded to serve up four more points, two of them on well-placed kills from Kala Fowler, to push the Stars to match point, 14-10.
A kill off the Soldotna blockers by Bonebrake stalled the Stars, but Fowler recorded one more cross-court kill for a 15-11 win.
Soldotna coach Pako Whannell said she tried a different lineup in the first game, but opted to go with a more familiar formation after that.
Both teams played well and Kupferschmid complimented the defense of Soldotna's Paige Blackburn and Christa Kennedy and Fowler's hitting following the match while Foster admitted she found herself impressed with the Panthers' defense during the match.
Kupferschmid said she felt the match could have gone either way and was hoping her squad would learn from the loss.
"Our kids played hard, and they showed a lot of heart," Kupferschmid said. "They could have lost in four, but they kept fighting. ... We'll see what the kids do with the loss. Hopefully, it will bring us back to practice motivated to improve."
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